In the Matter of D.E.P., __ N.C. App. __, 796 S.E.2d 509 (2017)


The trial court was not required by G.S. 7B-2512 to make findings of fact that addressed each of the G.S. 7B-2501(c) factors and did not abuse its discretion in ordering a Level 3 commitment based on the juvenile’s repeated violations of probation.

Disposition Order Findings. The court held that prior appellate decisions finding reversible error based on a trial court’s failure to make written findings on the G.S. 7B-2501(c) factors resulted from a mischaracterization of the holding in In re Ferrell, 162 N.C. App. 175 (2004), and subsequent repetition of this error. In Ferrell, the court set aside the portion of a disposition order that transferred custody of the juvenile from his mother to his father. The opinion in Ferrell cited the requirements of G.S. 7B-2501(c) and G.S. 7B-2512 in finding that the disposition order contained insufficient findings to support the transfer of custody. However, Ferrell did not involve any consideration of the court’s determination of the appropriate disposition level nor did it discuss the extent to which a disposition order must reference the factors set out in G.S. 7B-2501(c). Nonetheless, in a later published opinion, In re V.M., 211 N.C. App. 389, 391-92 (2011), the court reversed a disposition order, stating “we have previously held that the trial court is required to make findings demonstrating that it considered the [G.S.] 7B-2501(c) factors in a dispositional order[,]” and cited Ferrell as the relevant authority. The court noted that although this mischaracterization of Ferrell has been repeated in several cases, Ferrell did not actually decide the issue of the trial court’s duty to make findings referencing the G.S. 7B-2501(c) factors, nor did V.M. As a result, the court concluded that its decision does not overrule any decision of a prior panel of the Court of Appeals. Finally, although the trial court was not required to make written findings that referenced all of the factors in G.S. 7B-2501(c), the trial court’s findings indicated that it did in fact consider these factors.

Level 3 Commitment Order. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in entering a Level 3 Disposition and Commitment Order where the evidence showed the juvenile had multiple probation violations, the trial court continued him on probation several times, and the trial court had warned the juvenile at his last probation violation hearing that if he failed to comply with probation again, he would be sent to training school.

Disposition Order
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